Tech giants: kings of everything

Lance Harris
By Lance Harris, freelancer
Johannesburg, 07 Oct 2014

Google, Intel, Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, ARM and Cisco are among the tech giants racing to define the ecosystem and standards supporting the Internet of Things. At stake is dominance of a market that researcher IDC believes could be worth as much as $7.1 trillion by 2020.

In 2013, the global IOT market stood at around $1.9 trillion, according to IDC's figures, with around 90% of all devices being installed in the world's developed regions. Tech companies are making staggering investments into this emerging market - just look at Google's blockbuster acquisition of Nest for $3.2 billion.

In recent months, technology companies have accelerated their efforts to create standards and application programming interfaces (APIs) for the IOT. These standards are meant to ensure the many Internet-connected devices in a home or workplace, or on a user's person, can communicate with each other without human intervention. Today, integration between IOT devices is clumsy and ad hoc, rather than seamless and automated.

'Works with Nest'

Google announced a developer program for Nest that will let other gadgets and services access Nest's Internet-connected learning thermostat and smoke detector. The 'Works with Nest' APIs will help Google position Nest as a hub for the smart home by allowing manufacturers of wearable computers, cars, washing machines, etc, to integrate with Google products.

For example, the Jawbone UP24 band will have a setting that turns on the Nest thermostat when it senses that someone has woken up in the morning. And Mercedes-Benz cars will be able to communicate with Nest, warning the system when the driver is about to arrive so the thermostat can warm or cool the house.

Apple has also started to push for IOT integration, with plans to introduce three ecosystem APIs in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite: HomeKit for home automation devices, CloudKit for cloud storage and sync, and HealthKit for fitness and medical devices. The health app in iOS 8, for example, will be a central repository of health information from compatible devices and cloud services.